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How Things Change: The Duty to Disobey

Very handy talk from Gail Bradbrook of UK direct action network Rising Up! referencing lots of tools, theories, books, ways of thinking and practical approaches to making change through civil disobedience and direct action.

“Being ready for when a moment happens, when people are awake. Can we capitalise on that?”

“The trade unions movement is the start of that – I’ll strike if you’ll strike – and when people know that there’s solidarity there and they dare do it and it’s worth taking that action, that’s what has underpinned social change in this country, that conditional commitment…

…Your right to roam in national parks came from mass trespass in Kinder Scout, both in the Thirties and in the Nineties

…Your vote came from the Chartists and the Suffragettes

…The prevention of genetic modification in the UK was people that went and pulled up the crops

…Indian independence – the Salt Tax, satyagraha, that Ghandi led

…American independence: you’ve heard of the Boston Tea Party

…The whole civil rights movement in America was about breaking unjust laws”

Find out more and pledge to act on the Rising Up! Website. You might also want to check out the Radical Thinktank which Gail mentions.

For more on direct action, the US-based Ruckus Society have been a source of information and inspiration on taking direct action for over 20 years. Here they run down The Functions of Direct Action within the context of campaigns.

Getting Action: Climate Protection – The New Insurgency

This Getting Action re-post is written by our friend and Democracy Center steering committee member, Jeremy Brecher, and was originally published in Truth-Out. Also see this longer report, published by Foreign Policy in Focus. Jeremy Brecher is a historian and the author of numerous books on labor and social movements.

When 30 climate protestors from 18 countries protested drilling at an Arctic oil platform operated by Gazprom, they represented the people of the world taking a symbolic stand against climate destruction, the corporate climate destroyers, and the governments that back them. But the action of the Arctic 30 may be prophetic of something more: the emergence of a global insurgency that challenges the very legitimacy of those who are destroying our planet.

The 2013 Fifth Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirmed that humans are destroying the earth’s climate. But it also revealed something even more alarming: Twenty-five years of human effort to protect the climate have failed even to slow the forces that are destroying it. On the contrary, the rate of increase in carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels tripled between the release of the first IPCC report in 1988 and today.

Scientists and climate protection advocates once expected that rational leaders and institutions would respond appropriately to the common threat of climate change. As Bill McKibben said of Jim Hansen and himself, “I think he thought, as did I, if we get this set of facts out in front of everybody, they’re so powerful — overwhelming — that people will do what needs to be done.”

It didn’t work. Those who are fighting to save the climate need a new strategy. One such strategy to consider is a global nonviolent law-enforcing insurgency.

A Nonviolent Insurgency

Insurgencies are social movements, but movements of a special type: they reject current rulers’ claims to legitimate authority. Insurgencies often develop from movements that initially make no direct challenge to established authority but eventually conclude that one is necessary to realize their objectives. To effectively protect the earth’s climate and our species’ future, the climate protection movement may have to become such an insurgency.

The term “insurgency” is generally associated with an armed rebellion against an established government. Its aim may be to overthrow the existing government, but it may also aim to change it or simply to protect people against it. Whatever its means and ends, the hallmark of such an insurgency is to deny the legitimacy of established state authority and to assert the legitimacy of its own actions.

A nonviolent insurgency pursues similar objectives by different means. Like an armed insurgency, it does not accept the limits on its action imposed by the powers-that-be. But unlike an armed insurgency, it eschews violence and instead expresses power by mobilizing people for various forms of nonviolent mass action.

After closely following the massive strikes, general strikes, street battles, peasant revolts, and military mutinies of the Russian Revolution of 1905 that forced the czar to grant a constitution, Mohandas (not yet dubbed “Mahatma”) Gandhi concluded, “Even the most powerful cannot rule without the cooperation of the ruled.” Shortly thereafter he launched his first civil disobedience campaign, proclaiming “We too can resort to the Russian remedy against tyranny.”

The powers responsible for climate change could not rule for a day without the acquiescence of those whose lives and future they are destroying. They are only able to continue their destructive course because others enable or acquiesce in it. It is the ordinary activity of people — going to work, paying taxes, buying products, obeying government officials, staying off private property — that continually re-creates the power of the powerful. A nonviolent climate insurgency can be powerful if it withdraws that cooperation from the powers-that-be.

Why a Law-enforcing Insurgency?

Faced with the failure of conventional lobbying and political “pressure group” activity, much of the climate protection movement is now turning to mass civil disobedience, as witnessed by the campaigns against the Keystone XL pipeline, mountaintop removal coal mining, coal-fired power plants, and Arctic oil drilling. Such civil disobedience, while generally recognizing the legitimacy of the law, refuses to obey it in specific instances.

Civil disobedience represents moral protest, but it does not in itself challenge the legal validity of the government or other institutions against which it is directed. Rather, it claims that the obligation to oppose their immoral actions — whether discriminating against a class of people or conducting an immoral war or destroying the climate — is more binding on individuals than the normal duty to obey the law.

The illegality of a corporation was what brought about the Greenpeace action against an oil drilling platform.
The illegality of a corporation was what brought about the Greenpeace action against an oil drilling platform. Photo: Bob Ramsak / piran café under a Creative Commons license.

A law-enforcing insurgency goes a step further. It declares a set of laws and policies themselves illegal and sets out to establish law through nonviolent self-help. Such insurgents view those who they are disobeying as merely persons claiming to represent legitimate authority — but who are themselves violating the law under what’s known as “color of law,” or the false pretense of authority. So “civil disobedience” is actually obedience to law and a form of law enforcement.

Social movements that engage in civil disobedience often draw strength from the claim that their actions are not only moral, but that they represent an effort to enforce fundamental legal and constitutional principles flouted by the authorities they are disobeying. And they strengthen a movement’s appeal to the public by presenting its action not as wanton law-breaking but as an effort to rectify governments and institutions that are themselves in violation of the law.

For the civil rights movement, the constitution’s guarantee of equal rights meant that sit-inners and freedom riders were not criminals but rather upholders of constitutional law. For the struggle against apartheid, racism was a violation of internationally guaranteed human rights. For war resisters from Vietnam to Iraq, the national and international laws forbidding war crimes defined civil disobedience not as interference with legal, democratic governments but rather as a legal obligation of citizens. For the activists of Solidarity, the nonviolent revolution that overthrew Communism in Poland was not criminal sedition but an effort to implement the international human and labor rights law ratified by their own government.

These examples seem paradoxical. On the one hand, the movement participants appear to be resisting the constituted law and the officials charged with implementing it. On the other, they are claiming to act on the basis of law — in fact to be implementing the law themselves against the opposition of lawless states.

Law professor and historian James Gray Pope has developed a concept of “constitutional insurgency” to understand such cases. A constitutional insurgency, or what might be called a “law-enforcing insurgency,” is a social movement that rejects current constitutional doctrine but that “rather than repudiating the Constitution altogether, draws on it for inspiration and justification.” Pope detailed how the American labor movement long insisted that the right to strike was protected by the 13th amendment to the constitution, which forbade any form of “involuntary servitude.” Injunctions to limit strikes were therefore unconstitutional. Although courts disregarded this claim, the radical Industrial Workers of the World told its members to “disobey and treat with contempt all judicial injunctions,” and the “normally staid” American Federation of Labor maintained that a worker confronted with an unconstitutional injunction had an imperative duty to “refuse obedience and to take whatever consequences may ensue.”

Why Climate Destruction is Illegal

The legal ground for today's public trust was laid in the age of Roman Emperor Justinian I.
The legal ground for today’s public trust was laid in the age of Roman Emperor Justinian I.

The Justinian Code, issued by the Roman Emperor in 535 A.D., defined the concept of res communes (common things): “By the law of nature these things are common to mankind — the air, running water, the sea and consequently the shores of the sea.” The right of fishing in the sea from the shore “belongs to all men.”

Based on the Justinian Code’s protection of res communes, governments around the world have long served as trustees for rights held in common by the people. In U.S. law this role is defined by the public trust doctrine, under which the government serves as public trustee on behalf of present and future generations. Even if the state holds title, the public is the “beneficial owner.” As trustee, the state has a “fiduciary duty” to the owner — a legal duty to act solely in the owners’ interest with “the highest duty of care.” The principle is recognized today in both common law and civil law systems in countries ranging from South Africa to the Philippines and from the United States to India.

On Mother’s Day, 2011, the youth organization Kids vs. Global Warming organized the “iMatter March” of young people in 160 communities in 45 countries, including the United States, Russia, Brazil, New Zealand, and Great Britain. Concurrently, the Atmospheric Trust Litigation Project brought suits and petitions on behalf of young people in all 50 U.S. states to require the federal and state governments to fulfill their obligation to protect the atmosphere as a common property. Speaking to one of the rallies, 16-year-old Alec Loorz, founder of Kids v. Global Warming and lead plaintiff in the Federal lawsuit, said:

Today, I and other fellow young people are suing the government, for handing over our future to unjust fossil fuel industries, and ignoring the right of our children to inherit the planet that has sustained all of civilization. The government has a legal responsibility to protect the future for our children. So we are demanding that they recognize the atmosphere as a commons that needs to be preserved, and commit to a plan to reduce emissions to a safe level.

Loorz concluded: “The plaintiffs and petitioners on all the cases are young people. We are standing up for our future.”

A trustee has “an active duty of vigilance to ‘prevent decay or waste’ to the asset,” according to University of Oregon law professor Mary Christina Wood, whose new book Nature’s Trust: Environmental Law for a New Age lays out the legal basis for the suits. “Waste” means “permanently damage.” If the asset is wasted in the interest of one generation of beneficiaries over future generations, it is in effect an act of “generational theft.”

Although so far the courts have turned down most of these atmospheric public trust suits, the decisions are being appealed. On October 3, 2013, the Supreme Court of Alaska became the first state supreme court to hear such an appeal.

A Global Climate Insurgency

Compelling as the logic of the atmospheric public trust argument may be, it is easy to imagine that many U.S. courts will refuse to force governments to meet such obligations. In a brief to dismiss the Kansas suit, lawyers called the claim “a child’s wish for a better world,” which is not something a court can do much about.

The sad fact is that virtually all the governments on earth — and their legal systems — are deeply corrupted by the very forces that gain from destroying the global commons. They exercise illegitimate power without regard to their obligations to those they claim to represent, let alone to the common rights beneficiaries of other lands and future generations to whom they also owe “the highest duty of care.”

But protecting the atmosphere is not just a matter for governments. Indeed, it is the failure of governments to protect the public trust that is currently prompting the climate-protection movement to turn to mass civil disobedience. Looked at from the perspective of the public trust doctrine, these actions are far from lawless. Indeed, they embody the effort of people around the world to assert their right and responsibility to protect the public trust. They represent people stepping in to provide law enforcement where corrupt and illegitimate governments have failed to meet their responsibility to do so.

When the climate protection movement uses nonviolent direct action to protect the public trust, it is often confronted by government officials acting under color of law to perpetuate climate destruction. The Arctic 30 were held at gunpoint, for example, and charged with piracy. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said, “Concern for the environment must not cover up unlawful actions.” A law-enforcing climate insurgency will answer: Concern for oil company profits must not cover up unlawful government complicity in destroying the atmospheric public trust.

Getting Action: The Fracking Frontline in the English Countryside

A Letter from Balcombe, West Sussex

The situation at Balcombe is constantly evolving and the British media are there in numbers, along with plenty of citizen journalists. Here’s the latest on all things fracking from the Guardian, and the Frack-off site has a constantly updated blog from Balcombe.

by Mads Ryle

In many countries, and certainly here in the UK, fracking for shale gas and oil is the current focus of concern for the climate movement as well as for local residents who perhaps aren’t such seasoned protesters. The hydraulic fracturing process to release fossil fuels trapped in shale rockbed – along with other unconventional/extreme energy extraction methods – brings together a set of local concerns over water, air and noise pollution with global ones over continuing to pursue climactically destructive sources of energy rather than invest in renewables. The battle between the corporation (here actively encouraged by the government) and the concerned citizen also highlights the lack of social license and democratic process in the granting of exploration permits.

kids ltg north

UK Prime Minister David Cameron, however, doesn’t seem that interested in the democratic process, insisting that we should drill now and the public will accept the process once bills go down and companies buy communities off with a share in profits.  But the promise of lower energy bills has been contradicted even by Cuadrilla’s own PR guy, the commercial viability of the whole industry remains dubious, and the potential harms to both local environment and planetary climate are horrendous.

In the case of Balcombe, West Sussex – currently on the fracking frontline in England – the corporation involved is Cuadrilla. A parish council poll showed 82% of local residents reject fracking in the area. A permanent protest camp has been in place on the roadside outside the entrance to the exploration site since July 25th. I visited the camp a couple of times last week. 40 or so tents occupied the verges of the busy B-road, with traffic passing through almost constantly. I would say the majority beep their horns in support. Despite a heavy police presence the atmosphere is congenial. A camp kitchen serves tea and delicious lunches to anyone present. Flags and banners flutter in the unusually pleasant English summer. An array of signs adorn campers’ tents and vans; they reference Australia’s Lock the Gate movement, or are concerned with the devastating impact of fracking on water.  Humour abounds – “Here from the desolate North” read several hung up by supporters from Lancashire, in reference to recent comments about where the government might be able to get away with its dash for gas.

When I first visited on Sunday the mood was positively festive. The road was closed for several hours to allow a community event to take place. Several hundred people came for the day from various parts of Sussex as well as London and elsewhere to show solidarity. Many came with their children (there is a kids space set up with games, books and art materials). The day was organised by local poet Simon Welsh and people joined in with visiting choirs for an afternoon of song, including a choral re-rendering of Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’ as an anti-fracking anthem (rumour has it there are plans to release it as a single).

During previous weeks the focus of activities Monday to Saturday has been slowing down the delivery of trucks and goods to the site. Protesters line up on the road in front of Cuadrilla’s lorries and, as long as they keep moving (which they do as slowly as possible) they cannot be arrested for obstruction. There are representatives from organisations like CopBlock, and well-informed protesters politely reminding the police of their duties towards protesters.

When I returned on Wednesday I got a clearer sense of the day-to-day feel of the camp. The numbers of people sleeping over varies but I spoke to many who had been there for several weeks. Daytrippers like myself come and go, and on this occasion included a Dutch MP, and a local man who took up a megaphone to talk about the threat to the nearby reservoir, built when his father was a young man in the early 1900s in order to secure the area’s water supply (besides the contamination issue, each fracking well uses between 2 and 10 million gallons of water over its lifetime – and if full scale exploitation takes place we could be looking at thousands of wells in Sussex alone, let alone the rest of the UK). There was also a union representative from Unite, there to talk about how union legislation was being abused by Cuadrilla, who are trying to use it to defend the right of their non-unionised drivers to go to work. While he was chatting to one of the organisers a cheer went up as a carful of people arrested back in July arrived on site. They had been before the magistrate and had their bail conditions lifted – a victory which meant they were now allowed to return and protest.

No lorries were arriving that day – Cuadrilla had announced the previous evening that they thought it ‘unlikely’ that Balcombe would become a full production site. No promises of course. At the entrance gate one camper was diligently noting the vehicles coming in and out of the leafy site (and noting, so he said, that number plates were being switched illegally). He had also seen the delivery of razor wire (also illegal in the UK) and new perimeter fencing panels. Drilling had stopped for the first time in weeks – and workers were instead busy putting up this new infrastructure to protect the site. Several people talked about a shift in the atmosphere on site, a sense of “digging in”.

The reason being that today (Aug 16th) a serious new delegation of protesters is due to arrive in Balcombe as the No Dash for Gas group convenes its annual camp nearby. Yesterday Cuadrilla made another announcement that it was scaling back its drilling activities on the advice of police. (It said it was to “protect its workers” – but as the Frack Free Sussex Facebook page scoffed, it didn’t seem too bothered when ‘Its staff were sprayed with toxic drilling mud this week when they broke yet another drill bit’.) Up to a thousand people are expected to pass through the Reclaim the Power camp over the next six days. It rather looks like the frackers are running scared – though of course Cuadrilla are keen to make their activities seem minimal in an attempt to delegitimize the direct action being planned against them in the coming days. They aren’t fooling anyone – the Battle of Balcombe, and by extension the war against fracking in the UK, is far from over. 

There are regular updates, and lots of photos, from the Balcombe site on the Frack Off website. We hope to have some more on the ground reports from the Reclaim the Power event in the coming days.

Joining the fight against fracking? Please take a look at the Democracy Center profile of how the battle is being fought and won in Bulgaria and elsewhere.

Getting Action: Climate direct activism – Just Do It!

In March I spoke with Emily James, an award-winning documentary maker from the UK who has been making films with a conscience for several years. She had just returned from the San Francisco Green Film festival where she had been promoting her new feature-length documentary Just Do It. This ‘tale of modern-day outlaws’ takes us into the world of the UK’s climate change direct activists. Here she tells us about the film, and the difference that documentary can make.

Enjoy – and don’t forget to let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Mads Ryle – Democracy Center staff

If you know of a campaigning creative we should talk to, get them to write to us at maddy@democracyctr.org.

 

Interview with Emily James: Doing It Justice

by Mads Ryle

Borrowing and subverting one of the most famous brand no-logos of our time is an appropriate move for Just Do It, a documentary that features people dedicating themselves to overturning the status quo. Along with its clever use of animation and the ironic outlook of several of its main personalities, this gives a necessary playfulness to a tale of people who are essentially struggling for our collective survival. It reflects the sense of humour that has been gainfully employed by the UK climate movement to garner support and attention, as well as making the film incredibly watchable and engaging.

Emily James at work. Credit: Amelia Gregory

Just Do It is the result of a year (2009-10) spent filming with people in the UK – most of them young – who carry out direct action on climate change, often by targeting those most responsible for causing it. The film follows this community as it attempts to shut down a power station, locks itself onto bank headquarters, lobs food to striking workers at a wind turbine factory, or takes part in various actions (and gets put in police cells) at the UN COP-15 in Copenhagen. Getting such prolonged access to a community of people who are by necessity secretive is no easy proposition, but director Emily James was able to point to a roster of previous projects that included films such as The Luckiest Nut in the World – an animated analysis of the injustice inherent in so-called ‘free market’ globalization economics – as well as production work on the climate feature film The Age of Stupid. Making Just Do It as an independent, partly crowd-funded project also made a big difference. “That was a real turning point,” says James, “because [the activists being filmed] were like ‘Oh. You’re not even getting paid to do this. Not only that but you’re taking risks yourself’.  It just became clear that I was doing it for the same reason that they were doing it. And I wasn’t an outsider in as much as I understood the politics, and not only that but I shared the politics.”

James was invited to film the shut-down of Stansted airport in east London by the direct action group Plane Stupid in August 2008. The footage she took on that day was all over the news for 24 hours – and then the story disappeared. It was this experience that motivated her to make something more long-lasting: “I was so impressed by what the people that I met were doing. And I was also very aware that their story wasn’t being documented in any kind of comprehensive way.  So [after Stansted] I went back to them and said ‘look if we filmed the planning around an action like this then I could make  a much longer film and that would have a longer shelf-life and reach a wider audience’.” The film opens with a critical glance at how climate activism is reported in the mainstream British press – a characterization that generally ranges from the doings of pathetic hippies to violent extremists – and this was something that the film sought to challenge. As James says, “When I did the action with them the thing that struck me was how these guys were nothing like you would assume that they were if all you did was watch the news. There’s something much richer and much deeper to what they’re doing. So I wanted to amplify their message and paint a portrait of them that I thought was more accurate than the one they were getting.”

James sees documentary as a medium uniquely suited to telling these kinds of stories, and getting meaningful responses from those who see them. “There’s a special thing about documentaries”, she tells me, “because they’re able to move you emotionally and intellectually at the same time. So you can have informational content and learn about the world – in the case of an observational film like Just Do It you have a window into a world you might not yourself be able to ever see first-hand. And in doing so you have a growing empathy with the people that you get to know there and so that changes your perspective on what they’re doing.”

UK Climate Camp activists find another use for a police van at a protest in central London. Credit: Kristian Buus

 

 

 

 

James rejects the idea that she’s trying to ‘radicalize’ people with this film – because she rejects such a framing of what is or isn’t ‘radical’. “I do think the film is trying to reposition culturally the things that are happening in the film,” she says. “We’ve kind of bought into this idea that these people are ‘radicals’ and that they’re extremists… I don’t want it to push people to the margins of our political debate.  I want to pull those people who have been pushed to the margins back into the centre of the debate.”

At any rate there’s no doubt that seeing the people in Just Do It following their ethical instincts and taking the risks that they do has a very strong effect on the viewer. “They’re heroes,” James asserts, “and the funny thing is that I didn’t have to over-egg that to make that the case. I just had to show them as they are and do a relatively straight-forward portrait and it’s incredibly inspiring and makes you want to go and join them.”

James has made a number of television commissions which automatically received audiences in the millions – including people who haven’t necessarily “come to you”. With an independent production like this things are somewhat different, and finding and reaching an audience necessarily depends on exploiting the networks of those close to the issue. But James doesn’t see this as a problem. “Even if someone is a left-leaning liberal who already believes that climate change is happening and something needs to be done about it, this isn’t not the film for them – this is exactly the audience.” She looked for “that sweet spot in between” an already committed activist audience, and people who still need convincing about whether climate change is even real. “It is a film for people– and I think this is a very large group – who understand that climate change is happening, who have probably already done most of what they can easily do to change their own behavior. And who most likely have got to the point of feeling quite un-empowered and depressed about the scale of the problem and what we can do about it.

“A lot of people’s response is to put their head in the sand and just try and get on with their lives. And the thing that really inspired me about the people in Plane Stupid, Climate Camp and Climate Rush was that they didn’t do that. Their response was to go out and get really engaged and do something really bold and dramatic in order to try and create a real shift in the situation. And to do that against all odds, whether or not it was going to work. And I think that’s really important – to do things because they’re the right thing to do, not just because you’re going to get the desired effect at the end.”

In terms of getting results, Just Do It finishes by highlighting a number of campaign successes achieved over the period – including the halting of a third runway at Heathrow Airport. But in the film when James asks Marina and Rowan – two of the featured activists – whether what they do is ‘doing any good’, it is their attitude that she feels to be just as important as these tangible wins: “At that point in the filming none of those successes had happened, and they were doing these things anyway. And the answers that they gave, that’s what I was looking for – essentially a statement of: if you do nothing, then you’re definitely not gonna win. So you have to try.” Seeing the tenacity of the activists she worked with was inspiring: “Being unwilling to give up the fight…The people in the film, it was almost like they knew they were fighting an unwinnable battle. They were OK with that on some level. They would rather go down fighting than be the people that just stood by and watched it happen. And those are incredibly important core values…that I think as a society we’ve lost sight of to a really harmful extent.”

When I ask James what she saw as being strategically effective during her time with the movement, she tells me that she’s “not a direct action purist”. In other words, she does think it’s “totally valid to do stuff in order to get media attention or political attention.” And from that point of view, “what you do is important if it’s bold and arresting, but I think the tone with which you do it is almost more important. So I really like the Climate Rush stuff because it’s always very playful. And I like that Marina [another central character in the film] always stays polite and always keeps her tongue in her cheek a bit. And I think that makes it much more palatable for people to come to. It’s important for the individuals involved as well to get a sense of community and have a sense of play and a sense of fun about what they’re doing.”

Lily, one of the documentary’s featured activists, helping set up Grow Heathrow. Credit: Kristian Buus

That sense of community is one of the overriding impressions that Just Do It leaves the viewer with, one of the key ingredients in making you want to get out your seat and head down to join the squatters and local residents in their community garden at Grow Heathrow. As James says, “We can’t underestimate the personal and psychological value of participating in these kinds of things. Once you see what’s going on, sitting back and doing nothing is more psychologically damaging than going out and working with other people. There’s something so rewarding about being surrounded by people who share your values and who are engaged in a common effort to try and do something to make the world a better place.”

Visit  http://justdoitfilm.com/ to find out more, watch the trailer, read the accompanying blog and newspaper, or get involved with helping to organize a screening where you live.

Beating Goliath

All across the world people are engaged in urgent battles: on worker rights, protection of the environment, trade, health, and a range of other issues that shape our lives and our futures. In many of these struggles we face a powerful adversary – the corporation. National laws and international trade agreements are drafted under the influence of corporate power. Corporate interests form the donor base of major political parties, and often have bigger balance sheets than the countries they operate in. Waves of deregulation and privatization have eroded limits to corporate accumulation of profit and power. In this hostile environment, groups have had to become more and more sophisticated in how they confront companies in their workplaces and communities.

Struggles to win concessions from corporate power are not new. As the influence and reach of the corporation has grown, so has resistance to it. From early worker struggles for better wages and conditions, to the late 1990s campaign that targeted Shell’s bright yellow logo to stop it sinking an old drilling platform in the North Sea, confronting corporate interests has long been part of the struggle for social and environmental justice.

Groups confronting corporations have a range of politics and use a range of tactics. They include Christian shareholder groups that talk about increasing ‘corporate responsibility’, direct action campaigners that see capitalism itself as the root cause of climate change, well-funded NGOs and confederations of neighbourhood organizations. The Democracy Center designed this resource to be useful for both newcomers to this kind of campaigning and old hands, no matter where they lie on the political or tactical spectrum.

This resource opens with some background on corporate campaigning, and why we think it’s important to take on corporate power through individual campaigns. We then look at a series of wins from corporate targets, with a focus on what we can learn from them as we put together new campaigns.

This is followed by introductions to tools and more detailed resources for campaigners fighting corporations – including organizing, research, strategy, communications, coalition building, direct action, shareholder and financier strategies, legal strategies, and consumer strategies.

Finally, we’ve included six profiles of climate justice campaigns against corporations that are happening right now, with brief outlines of what they’re campaigning for and how they’re going about it.